House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.


Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the point exactly. The point is that because the government will not, in a respectful and friendly way, stand up to our American neighbours, we are creating the precedent to put Canadians at risk because of the legislation that may be in force now or in the future in terms of foreign countries.

The hon. parliamentary secretary made a point that I wish to address further. He suggested that in some way this is going to help security. I will again ask a question that he did not answer. How is it that he believes this legislation is necessary? Have they not done enough to protect Canadians through the security measures that we have in Canada? That is the true question.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before moving on, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Offshore Drilling; the hon. member for Gatineau, Official Languages; the hon. member for Etobicoke North, Health.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-42.

I do not think we can trace this one back a number of years with different bill numbers because this bill was introduced on June 17, the last day of the spring sitting, as the member for Eglinton—Lawrence said.

To wit, the new transport critic for the opposition, the member for Markham—Unionville, made his presentation this morning. He said that he had only seen this bill two days ago. I believe he said he thought it looked okay and was good enough to be sent to committee where we would have to study it and improve it. Then the Bloc critic, who I believe is also new to the transport committee, also made a speech. He seemed to think the bill was ready for committee, as well.

Now after question period we have a new round of speakers. We had two very good speeches from members of the official opposition who seemed to be on the other side of the bill.

Given that we only have another 45 minutes of debate today and given that all the parties will be having their caucus meetings tomorrow, it might be a good idea for members of the Liberal Party to revisit their position on this bill. If the critic is seemingly in favour of the bill and two other learned speakers for the Liberal Party are against it, clearly they have an issue to resolve within their caucus.

I would also say that the government might take heed here and look at taking a second look at this bill before it is defeated. Perhaps they could withdraw it and come back with a better solution.

Earlier today I asked the parliamentary secretary whether or not any efforts had been made in the area of reciprocity. On a world basis we only have to look at the drama which has been unfolding over the last week in the fight with the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates have said that it is going to kick Camp Mirage, our staging base, out of the country in the next 30 days or so because Canada will not let Emirates airlines land any more flights in Toronto than are landing now.

Clearly there is a linkage in this discussion between Canada and the United Arab Emirates. This issue has now become public. There is a tie-in between the base and whether the United Arab Emirates is allowed to fly more flights to Canada. Let us not kid ourselves, every international issue has similar aspects to it. This issue would be no different.

The member for Western Arctic, our long-time critic on transport, told me this morning that roughly 2,000 flights originating in the United States fly over Canada per day, in Canadian airspace. If we multiply that number by the average number of passengers per plane, that is a lot of people on flights in Canadian airspace every day, going to Europe and other places around the world. In contrast, the number of Canadian flights flying in American airspace per day, according to the member for Western Arctic, is only in the 100 range.

The question we have to ask is would a government that was on the ball, looking out for Canadian passengers and Canadian airline interests not try to drive a harder bargain and try to negotiate? It could say that if we are going to provide the information on a 100 flights per day, which would add extra costs to our airlines and to our government, then we want the United States to reciprocate and provide us with the information on that country's 2,000 flights per day. After all, our airspace is sovereign, too. Quite frankly, we also want to know who is flying in our airspace. That is what it really boils down to.

For a number of years the United States, and I think other countries too, have demanded a list of passengers prior to their boarding an airplane. Even before 9/11, I remember when I was going to Australia, before boarding the plane in Vancouver, the passport information had to be processed.

I believe a lot of that had to do with the whole issue of refugees getting on a plane, flushing their documents down the toilet and arriving in a new country without any documentation. It is the airline that is responsible for the costs of flying the people back. That has been an issue with the airline industry for a number of years. The airlines resent that they have to pay the costs of transporting people back when the new country refuses to take them. They want to make sure they have all the information and get what is known as pre-clearance for passengers.

After many years of allowing airlines to fly over our territory, things are being taken to a whole new level in saying that we are not satisfied with the airport screening devices, the locked cockpits and the air marshalls on board and we now want to know at any given time who is actually sitting in those planes in our airspace. That is what I believe is behind this situation.

What do the Americans think is going to happen? Do they think that somebody is going to blow up an airplane while flying in American airspace? Is that what they are thinking? I am not really sure what the rationale is. The fact of the matter is that regardless what the demands are from the Americans, the Canadian government has a responsibility to the Canadian public to reciprocate, to say that if the Americans want our information, we will take their information, and to negotiate what types of information we want to collect and whether it is worthwhile collecting.

For some time we have been talking about the value of keeping the no-fly list. Senator Ted Kennedy was on the no-fly list. I know the member for Winnipeg Centre would be very motivated to stand and speak to this topic because his name was on a no-fly list and he had to sort it out. He was sorting it out with a government that has a series of rules that do not allow him to sort out the problem. That is my point.

People get tied up in knots. Senator Kennedy got tied up in knots trying to get his name off the no-fly list. The member for Winnipeg Centre tried to get his name off the no-fly list when his name should not have been on it in the first place.

Then there is the situation where a person gets on an airplane and literally breezes through all the security measures that have been put in place.

I think we all remember on December 25, 2009 there was the situation of a 23-year-old, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, everyone knows that name, who got on an airplane in Lagos, Nigeria and flew to Amsterdam and then Detroit. He committed all the sins that are supposed to be picked up.

This is what he did. He bought a round-trip ticket with cash. In the old days it used to be one way, but the geniuses running our security services finally figured out that people should not be buying one-way tickets with cash. That was a sure sign something could go wrong. He bought a round-trip ticket with cash.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was flying to Detroit at Christmas where there was a lot of snow but he had no carry-on baggage at all. He flew from Lagos into Amsterdam Schiphol which is the ultimate in secure airports. It has every type of screening device that one could imagine and this guy boarded a plane without a passport. This is yet another big breach.

We have spent untold billions of dollars developing a system to ensure the member for Winnipeg Centre cannot get on a plane, to ensure Senator Kennedy cannot get on a plane, to ensure a six-year-olds cannot get on a plane and tied ourselves up in knots, and yet this young 23-year-old makes fools of us all and walks right through the system. Had it not been for his own incompetence, he would have killed several hundred people.

We clearly need to start looking at security in a smarter fashion than we do right now. I go to a number of cross-border meetings with American politicians and the whole issue of toughening the border is always raised. We hear how we are torturing ourselves and torturing our own citizens because the bad guys are not lining up at the border. When crossing the Manitoba border at Emerson or a Saskatchewan border point, the people who are smuggling marijuana and drugs across the border are not lined up in their car taking this stuff across the border. They are walking the drugs or driving snowmobiles across the border.

If all the local politicians and residents in South Dakota and North Dakota know that and Manitoba and Saskatchewan know that, why are we continually trying to toughen the border? That is the thinking in Washington. The unfair misrepresentation of Canada for several years has been that the terrorists came through Canada. I know the government has had to fight that, as we all have when we are down there on trips. We need to make it clear to the Americans that none of the 9/11 terrorists came through Canada. I know it is a hard battle.

If the government is going to involve itself in negotiations with the Americans, it should at least stand up for the Canadian side of the arguments and try to argue at least reciprocity. The government should not introduce a bill in the House and somehow unilaterally say that it will start providing this information or that information to third countries. We do not even know how much information will be transferred. There is some discussion that somehow information on the PNRs will be transferred. I do not know if that is the case and I do not know what the information is in total on the PNR.

I can say that if a name is misspelled by one letter on a ticket, it is possible for the agent to correct that by simply putting a note on the PNR. There are all kinds of notes on customers' PNRs on a whole range of things. Therefore, if that is the information that is being passed on, then all of these notes are presumably being passed along with the information already there.

In addition to that, we presume that the Americans have access to passport information. I know that when Manitoba brought in the new drivers' licence-like passports, there was a big argument about how private the information would be and how much information would be provided to the American authorities.

I think the public wants to be safe and, if they understand that the information being provided is safe and they know there is a good reason for the information, they probably would be willing to give up that privacy issue in favour of being safe on the airplane. However, the history so far has not proven that to be the case.

It is almost like the Keystone Kops. We read stories about six-year-olds and eight-year-olds being on the no-fly list and then we have the Abdulmutallab situation where the guy walks through all our defences. After what he did last December, we had to put in full body scanners that cost several hundred million dollars a piece. We then find out that those scanners will not solve the problem because smart terrorists will simply hide the plastic explosives in body cavities.

Body scanners, which have been installed in some airports but it will take another 10 or 20 years to have them in all the airports, do not pick up on explosives that are put into body cavities. Guess what? That is what the terrorists will move on to and now we need to deal with that issue.

There is one airline alone in the world that has dealt successfully with the whole issue of terrorism and it is the safest airline in the world on which to fly. I flew EL AL Airlines a number of years ago, but at the time, in 1970, EL AL was probably the most unsafe airline in the world. It had several skyjackings. I believe it had planes blowing up in the Sinai desert in 1970. After that point, the Israeli government and the EL AL officials changed the way they dealt with security.

When I went over there in 1987, it was a totally different experience than flying with a Canadian or American carrier. They put people through a three-hour interview and examination process. They did not stop with just checking people's bags to see how much liquids they had in their bags. They actually asked people what they were going over there for. They more or less did a type of psychological profile on people.

When we discussed that issue with the Americans, they said that it would not work there. They said that in order to balance the need to move masses of people very fast, they had to sacrifice a little on safety.

I now want to deal with the issue of the trusted shippers program. I was totally shocked and surprised to find out that there are 1,000 trusted shippers in either North America or the United States who can ship things. These people are shipping packages that are sitting in the cargo hold of the planes and a very small percentage, if any, are being scanned, tested or checked. It is an absolute disaster waiting for a place to happen.

The whole business of the trusted shipper program must be looked into and tightened up on because sooner or later somebody will put a letter or a package through this trusted shipper program with an explosive device and we will be reading about the terrible horror story and asking why we did not do something in advance.

The government should be spending its time on trying to make flying safer than it is right now.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta


Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I heard quite a bit of misinformation and lack of facts coming from the member opposite. However, I have several questions for him.

Did the member know that this government asked for and received an exemption for domestic Canadian flights flying through U.S. airspace? That means Toronto to Vancouver, an exemption. This government got that exemption from the United States.

Did he know that this legislation only facilitates the sharing of information for flights to the United States or over the United States sovereign airspace to a third country?

Did he know that if passed, the information that air carriers would be required to share with the United States is the full name, date of birth and gender, which is actually less than what is on a Canadian passport today?

Did he know that passenger information that is confirmed to not be linked with terrorism will be erased after seven days?

Further, we all know that passports are required at every U.S. entry point. So this will be less information and it excludes domestic flights.

Let us be clear on something else. Did the member know, did the Liberals know, does the Bloc know that without these amendments that we are proposing, flights leaving Canada will no longer be able to travel over United States airspace?

That is the repercussions of the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberal coalition in standing up against Canadians and their wish to travel abroad. They should be ashamed of themselves for fear-mongering and spreading misinformation.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I hear some of my colleagues say, “Who's doing the fearmongering in this place?” We have just heard some of it here.

Yes, we know that the exemption was given for airlines to fly point to point in Canada and go over American airspace. We know the exemption was there.

However, what is the difference? The fact is that somehow the Americans are willing to exempt airlines and allow these passengers, some of whom might be people who they do not want to fly over their territory, to do so. When we fly from Toronto to Winnipeg, we will be flying over the Great Lakes and American territory but that will be okay because the government got an exemption.

However, if we were to add a few more hours to the flight and go south to Mexico, that does not qualify. It is kind of a fine line that the member seems to be drawing.

The big issue is why the government did not get reciprocity. Why do Canadians not get to look at who is flying over Canada? Somehow our airspace is less important than theirs. Is that the way the government looks at it?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the debate, it is clear that there are more questions than answers.

In his speech, the member from Brampton asked how this would enhance the safety and security of Canadian passengers.

I must admit that I am sitting here and thinking about jurisdictions other than the United States and wondering whether or not military aircraft are subject to the same disclosure requirements. That would be kind of interesting.

I have also looked for the regulations. I have not been able to sort through them because there are many iterations of them, but the reasonable expectation of what information should be there and what is a reasonable information requirement by a foreign jurisdiction to ask for are questions that have not been answered yet.

I think we have been talking more about platitudes, that it would enhance the safety and security of Canadian passengers, when it seems to be putting more and more people under the microscope which may inadvertently with unintended consequences put them at some risk for other purposes. I think those are the concerns that members have expressed.

Before the government proceeds too much further with this, maybe it should start providing information. If we look at the legislative summary of the bill, it does not answer those questions. I did not see any briefing sessions for the members.

If the government is convinced that the bill is the right thing to do, it should properly inform members of Parliament so that they can do their job.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the member is on the right track. That is why I suggested he get together with his own Liberal caucus tomorrow and iron out where it stands on the bill. Its new critic, the member for Markham—Unionville, says he only saw the bill two days ago, while the member for Eglinton—Lawrence claimed to have read it the day it was introduced on June 17, the last day Parliament sat. So clearly, the Liberal caucus members are not really talking to one another about the bill. Then another Liberal member made a great speech, basically supporting the member for Eglinton—Lawrence. So, we have two Liberals who sound as if they do not like the bill and one who says he only heard about two days ago and it sounds okay to him and maybe we could sort out any problems it has in committee.

I think the Liberals are on the right track. I think they are going in the right direction. They can discuss it in caucus tomorrow.

The member's advice to the government is good, though. Maybe it should look at pulling the bill and coming back with something more palatable. I think it would give the Bloc the opportunity to have a breather too, because I think the Bloc critic today did not seem to clearly understand just where things were going with this bill either. So perhaps we will have another 15 minutes of debate, we will finish for the day and then it will be time to discuss this tomorrow in more depth.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we talk about the accountability of the current government and of course there is absolutely none. We just have to look at the Minister of Natural Resources and the fiasco with the government buildings.

When we see a bill such as this one, it is basically a clear threat to our freedom and an invasion of our privacy. Maybe my colleague would like to speak a bit about what happened with the no-fly list, how Ted Kennedy ended up on it, how the information that is being provided and the wrong information that sometimes is put on there would actually impact a person, and why we are so dead against this type of information going out to these other countries.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I have been to Washington once over the last 10 years when I have not been told by a member of Congress that he or she has had some problem at the airport that should not have happened, dealing with this flight situation. So clearly the system put in place, Homeland Security, has become a huge monster. Some might say it is bit out of control. We do not know if it is achieving results. I do not have the statistics. I had them before, on the growth of this agency. However, the number of people and the amount of money this agency eats up in a year is just unbelievable. It is incumbent upon governments like the one here to stand up to those agencies, because they will put pressure on us. They have to have checks and balances in their own system, where United States senators and congressmen actually stand up and take a stand against their own Homeland Security and say that it has gone far enough, it is out of control and it is spending too much.

We have no problem with security, as long as it is smart security. We do not want to be running off, spending huge amounts of money on systems that do not necessarily work. Thickening a border when the criminal elements are simply walking across it or driving around it on snowmobiles is not the answer. We are just tying up our own good hard-working citizens in knots over something that should not be done. We have to keep forcefully putting this message across to the Americans, because at the lower levels, at the state levels, those local officials get it. Those local elected officials in South Dakota and North Dakota understand that thickening the border is not where the national government should be going. So, there are allies out there; the government just has to start talking with them.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I have been fascinated by this legislation.

I was checking some of the blues of members who have spoken, particularly the critic for transport, and one of the questions that has come up is with regard to the kinds of information that might be there under the control of an operator. The summary actually includes things such as name, gender, passport number, et cetera; however he stated that the authorized foreign governments may request more specific information.

Bill C-42 particularly states that, if the foreign jurisdiction has passed a law requiring it, that information be provided if a plane not only lands in that jurisdiction but also flies over it. Much of the discussion has been with regard to our relationship with the United States, but most of the members who have spoken and raised some concerns on this have tried to answer a couple of questions.

Number one, what does it mean when this bill says that this is going to be known as the Strengthening Aviation Security Act? In itself, it does not. It has nothing to do with strengthening aviation security. What it does is grant an exemption to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA. It basically provides that opportunity whereby the operators will be able to disclose personal information that otherwise would be prohibited under PIPEDA.

The bill is very short, and I do not want to repeat what other members have said about it, but we have talked in the context of the United States. We know about the no-fly list, we know about all the terrorist issues and we are basically trying to identify whether or not there are any risk elements here. I suspect that we could, but I am not so sure that there may not be some unintended consequences of expanding the information required to be provided to what would be required under the legislation of a foreign jurisdiction.

The United States may very well ask for much broader information than simply a name, address, passport number, et cetera. There may be other information that may logically flow. I guess the enabling part of this is that it refers to information in the custody or control of the operator, being the airline. I wanted to raise that concern.

The fact is that there have been questions, and if we look at the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, we see that he said this is basically to make sure that Canadians who want to travel to other countries are safe and secure and that they are able to travel, because if we do not comply with the requirements of a foreign jurisdiction, then that flight may not be able to go there. That means that businesspeople cannot go and do their business. That means that tourists cannot go there.

However if we carry that to its logical extension, if any country were to say, “Sorry, you are not going to be able to fly over our jurisdiction, or in fact land here, unless you provide this information”, all of a sudden the relationship between two countries becomes very problematic. In fact it could raise an enormous amount of difficulty in terms of trade and other activities.

One of the questions I raise is with regard to military aircraft. Does that mean a foreign jurisdiction can say, “I want to know everybody on the plane. How many troops are on there?” This is information that would be in the control of the operator, if we take this literally. I am hoping, and I am pretty sure, that somewhere in the rules of the game the government is playing on this, there is an exclusion with regard to that.

The title with regard to the citation is the Strengthening Aviation Security Act. The protection issue actually is handled under what is called the passenger protect program.

The legislative summary says that the Aeronautics Act is the authority for the federal government program called the passenger protect program, formally known as PPP and informally known as the no-fly list, under which Transport Canada provides aircraft operators with a list of names of potential passengers that must be checked before issuing boarding passes. That is referred to as the specified persons list.

There has been much discussion about this program. In fact, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has done an audit of the passenger protect program of Transport Canada and made a number of observations, and I found, interestingly enough, that it had sufficient concerns that it indicated it would review this again in 2011. Even with regard to the existing program, the Privacy Commissioner has indicated there are some areas of concern.

If we broadened the scope of this and we start dealing with other jurisdictions that may have a variety of information requirements for whatever reason, we have to ask ourselves whether or not it opens up a bigger ballpark of activity than currently exists.

I am not satisfied that this simply is a bill that relates to the United States, because if it were then it would have been specifically dedicated to addressing the United States and not foreign states.

Even though the bill is about 14 lines and forms the entire clause, the amendment to this legislation is only about 20 words. It adds the words “or fly over a foreign state and land outside Canada” and adds the words “or fly over” a foreign state in accordance with regulations. Those words alone would not mean anything to anybody. In fact, reading this clause, even with the amended words in there, is probably not going to answer all the questions because we have to see the context in which this clause fits.

In clause 2 of the bill, subsection 4.83(1) is being amended and it refers specifically to subsection 7(3) of the act. We need to have the act in front of us as well. Not only that, but the bill also refers to the regulations. If we look for the regulations on the statutes website, we will see there are piles of regulations, and I still have yet to be able to find the specific regulation that relates to the particular clause being amended.

I get the sense from what people have said so far that the government seems to think this is something it has to do to comply with U.S. requirements. However, there may be some unintended consequences. I am not convinced, and I do not think a lot of members are convinced, that the government has thought this through as it relates to other jurisdictions. We understand sovereignty of air space.

Canadians were a little concerned even when the United States required information be provided when Canadian aircraft flew over American airspace even though it was going between two Canadian points. All of a sudden the scope of information being provided becomes a very intrusive concept to Canadians, considering the problems we have been having in terms of maintenance of records and the privacy issues that have been swirling around in the media of late, like people's medical records with regard to Veterans Affairs officials.

Whenever members have questions of this kind of breadth it raises the point: Why is it that the government did not take the time to properly brief members of Parliament as to the who, what, where, when and why?

Why is it that the legislative summary, for instance, is very weak in terms of the content? It spends more time talking about the passenger protect program than it does about this legislation.

It does not address some of the analysis. It talks a lot about PIPEDA and the importance of PIPEDA protecting privacy, but it does not deal with identifying the specific information, as defined, that would qualify as being in the custody or control of the operator.

That kind of fundamental information would seem to be important enough to articulate in debate, to provide in briefing sessions, to present in order to earn the support and the confidence of members. It is amazing how even the smallest bills with the smallest amendments seem to cause the most difficulty for members, and it is simply because there are questions that are unanswered.

I do not think it is helpful to say that the opposition parties are getting together and are not for anything. I am sorry, but we have had many bills that have been introduced and for months never called for debate. If things are important, the priority of those matters should be raised when that debate starts by the spokesman on behalf of the government, and it did not happen. It did not happen in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety. It gave just two brief points. It glossed over a few other things, saying not to worry, to be happy, to remember that this is the United States and this is safety and security.

However, as many members have pointed out already, the bill does not improve the safety and security of Canadian passengers travelling. Privacy is the issue, and the parliamentary secretary who spoke on behalf of the government on this did not raise the significant points of privacy under PIPEDA that were the substance of the amendment to the bill, which would provide an exemption under PIPEDA.

I am a little frustrated that the government would like to come back to members and say this is our problem, not the government's. I would simply suggest to hon. members that I believe the problem is the government, and I would be happy to continue this speech at a later time.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have about seven minutes when this returns for debate.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-386.

The bill seeks to prohibit the use of replacement workers during work stoppages in federally regulated sectors. It is important to highlight these key sectors of the economy, which include international and interprovincial rail, road and air transportation, shipping and longshore operations, grain handling, uranium mining, banking, broadcasting, telecommunications, and certain crown corporations such as museums.

This bill is not in the best interests of workers. If it were passed, we would create uncertainty in the labour market in general and in these federally regulated industries in particular. Uncertainty costs jobs.

Clarity, transparency, and a process that resolves disputes without having to resort to a work stoppage, this is how we protect jobs. I suggest to hon. members that especially in these difficult economic times we do not want to replace a system of clarity, transparency, and the resolving of disputes with one that would create more uncertainty.

More important, the bill, if passed, would upset the careful balance that has been established under the current legislation and the programs available to help resolve labour disputes.

I would point out to the House that last year marks the 10th anniversary of the passage of comprehensive amendments to part I of the Canada Labour Code, the part dealing with industrial relations. Those amendments modernized the code and improved collective bargaining in federally regulated industries.

Before passing those amendments, the government of the day consulted extensively. Andrew Sims, Q.C., who was chair of the Alberta Labour Relations Board at the time, chaired a task force that consulted with businesses, unions, academics, and other interest groups.

His task force sought a balance between many different interests. Sometimes these interests were in conflict with one another and sometimes they were in cohesion. We sought a balance between labour and management, the public interest and free collective bargaining, and rights and responsibilities.

Mr. Sims and his task force found a workable balance among these issues. One of the key areas where this balance applied was in the rights and obligations of parties during a work stoppage. This was a contentious issue even among task force members.

These positions of unions and management on the question of replacement workers can be quite polarized. Generally, unions look to a complete ban on the use of replacement workers, while most employers want a free hand.

Even the members of the task force could not reach consensus on this issue. Eventually, the majority of the task force members recommended a balance that would permit employers to carry on operations during a work stoppage, while protecting the union's right to strike and retain its bargaining authority.

That is the balance that was attained in the replacement worker provisions that came into effect under section 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code in 1999. It is a provision that has served Canada well for the past 10 years. It is a carefully crafted balance that the hon. member would upset with this bill. It has helped provide a degree of relative peace in labour relations over the past 10 years.

The bill before us today would stir the pot and bring to the surface many of the contentious issues that the task force carefully examined in making its recommendations.

If unions believe that they have employers over a barrel because of the prohibition on replacement workers, some may be encouraged to refuse the concessions that might otherwise resolve a dispute. They hold the trump card.

Independent studies have looked at the impact of anti-replacement worker laws on work stoppages. Most found no evidence that a legislative ban had an effect on activity, but some found that a prohibition on replacement workers led to more frequent and longer strikes.

In this time of economic recovery, we do not need the greater uncertainty that such legislation would bring. On the other hand, the current system of balance on the issue of replacement workers has supported an environment where labour and management are brought together to resolve disputes at the bargaining table, not by resorting to a work stoppage.

I would remind the House of the highly effective programs now in place to bring management and unions together. Through the labour program, the Government of Canada promotes fair, safe, and productive workplaces and co-operative workplace relations.

Unions and employers are provided with federal services to help resolve their collective bargaining disputes through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the FMCS. It provides tools for dispute resolution through the services of neutral third-party conciliation and mediation officers. These officers have a mandate to help both parties reach an agreement.

Hon. members will recall, for example, that Air Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees reached an agreement with the assistance of federally appointed mediators. Labour stability was one of the key elements to ensure that Air Canada could navigate through the economic uncertainty. Both Air Canada and the CUPE made an extra effort to settle their differences with the help of the federally appointed mediators.

The FMCS also gets involved in arbitration by providing a professional arbitrator, who examines both sides of the dispute and renders a binding decision. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service also provides dispute prevention services. For example, officers can provide training workshops. They customize these programs to meet the specific needs of the organizations and individuals involved, everything from development of negotiation skills and committee effectiveness to problem solving.

Workshops typically last from one to three days and are delivered by well-trained FMCS mediators. In these ways, the FMCS provides important benefits to employers and unions by improving the relationships between both parties during the closed period of a collective agreement.

The FMCS succeeds in providing these services because the relative strength of both labour and management balances under the current provisions for replacement workers. Neither side wants to provoke a stoppage, both sides are willing to talk, but striking this balance was a complex and demanding challenge. The history of labour relations over the past years indicates that for the most part the Sims task force got the balance right.

One way we can tell that the task force got the balance right is the numerous occasions over the past years that an hon. member of one political persuasion or another has tried to amend the collective bargaining provisions. I cannot begin to count the number of times the House has debated measures similar to those of the hon. member, measures that seek a different balance.

On each and every occasion, the motion or the bill has been voted down. Why? Because it has not represented an improvement over what has been put in place by the task force, and that is the case for this bill from the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. These measures would breed uncertainty and upset a carefully constructed balance that has helped build and sustain our good labour relations in this country.

This bill is not good for workers, it is not good for the economy, and it is not good for Canada. I urge hon. members to join me in voting against it.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, as everyone in the House knows, there have been many bills and motions in the last number of years and I have consistently supported the principle of banning replacement workers. But the bill also needs to deal with the issue of essential services. While the bill mentions it, it really leaves things alone. So while the bill includes a section on maintaining essential services, it does not clearly define what would constitute an essential service.

In the Canada Labour Code, the threshold of an essential service currently is extremely high. “An immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public” is the definition as it is now in the labour code.

The bill leaves this definition pretty much intact and does not define it at all. That is problematic, because if we are going to change the system, we need to be clear on what essential services are and what that means. As others have stated and as we have stated many times before, in terms of the Sims report of 1999, the review of part I of the Canada Labour Code, most items at that time were agreed upon as part of the negotiations between workers and employers, except for the replacement worker aspect. This is something that we have known for some time.

Under the current labour code, there is no general ban on replacement workers. However, they cannot be used to break a union. This again is something that is quite understood by most people and these are some of the aspects. An important balance to be achieved in the collective bargaining process is something that negotiators tried to get to. Obviously this item was not agreed upon and it has remained as it is, but under the current labour code it talks about maintaining an important balance in the collective bargaining process.

This is what the current and previous bills were trying to do, to resolve this particular piece that was not agreed upon at the time. I wonder if it is not time to look at overhauling the labour code and bringing labour and employers together again to try to see whether an agreement can be reached, rather than continuing this debate in the House, which seems to have been going on for quite some time and some years and we seem to arrive at the same place.

We all know that B.C. and Quebec have replacement worker bans. In Quebec, the average work stoppage under the new system was 43.8 days between 2005 and 2008. Under the Canada Labour Code, the average was 41 days, so there does not seem to be a major difference between the replacement worker system that Quebec and B.C. have and our current labour code. So the argument that it creates a problem does not seem to hold if we were to go in that direction.

Also in Quebec there were 25 complaints to the labour relations board regarding unfair use of replacement workers, and 10 were upheld. Since 1999, under the Canada Labour Code, there have been 23 complaints, none of which were upheld and one is still pending. So even in this area where some people argue that it would cause problems and would change the situation dramatically, there does not seem to be a huge or major difference or problem from what is going on in B.C. and in Quebec under the current establishment.

Again, under this proposed legislation, managers and directors could still be used as replacement workers, much as they can now. However, other replacement workers could not be brought in, and that is the objective of the bill before us.

I think it is worth reviewing some of the arguments that have been made in the past against the banning of replacement workers, because we seem to discuss these over and over. One argument is that possibly more strikes could take place. However, that has not happened in Quebec, so we have not seen that as one of the results.

Another argument is that it will upset the balance in collective bargaining, giving more power to the union. That is something that I think we would have to agree or disagree on, depending on the angle from which one looks at it.

The other argument is that it does not allow for an employer to continue operating his or her business. Again, that is not necessarily the case, given the experience of the provinces.

I am going to come to the federal scene in a moment, because it is a little different.

The other one is about services that are not necessarily an immediate threat to the health and safety of the public but have economic consequences if they could not function, such as telecommunications, transportation, and so on. This is the other argument, that those things could happen.

In terms of banning replacement workers, those who are supportive of that argue differently. Unions argue that it would encourage employers to bargain more fairly. That may be true, but we need to have a proper dialogue at this point between the two sides to really go back and perhaps the minister needs to begin to look at this area.

As I said earlier, we need to define essential services to make it much clearer. Currently, essential services have a very limited definition under the Canada Labour Code. If we are going to change the whole structure, that also needs to be addressed. Right now, it must be an immediate threat to public health and safety.

During the OC Transpo strike in Ottawa, for instance, it was not deemed an immediate threat. Therefore, there was no intervention, and as we all remember, the strike went on for quite some time.

CN would not qualify either, because it is not an immediate threat.

In Quebec, it is much different, as others have said. The essential services council oversees the whole structure, so the employer and union both come before the council. The employer states that it is an essential service, but again, essential services are defined, and needs a certain number of employees to function. The union either states that it is not an essential service, or if it is, they indicate how many employees it would need to provide that service. Again, essential services are defined; it cannot be a generic thing. The council then makes a ruling on whether it is an essential service and the number of employees who must work.

While the Montreal metro was on strike, it was determined by the council that it must run during rush hour. This was the determination made as a result of that structure, and it was deemed to be not a threat or danger to the public but rather an economic issue. Therefore, that decision was made and it gives us an idea of how it would work.

If a replacement worker ban were implemented in Canada, we would need a similar framework, but we would also need a much clearer definition of essential services. That is something that I think this bill is lacking and it is problematic.

It is also important to note that there are differences between the federal and provincial jurisdiction. Provincial strikes do not have substantial impacts across the country as most in the federal sphere do.

As we saw with the most recent CN strike, it impacts many industries, the ports, commuter traffic and businesses right across this country.

The telecommunications companies, for instance, on strike would have a massive impact on our economy. Again the impact would be nationwide.

A strike at one plant or other isolated business does not have the same impact in a provincial context, although there are services that cut across the province and cities. Again, the definition of essential services there would be critical.

Any legislation brought forward on replacement workers would have to deal with the matter of essential services. I go back to that because it is very critical that we agree on what that means. There needs to be a discussion and agreement on that. Again, this legislation does not appear to have that.

What I would like to see, if at all possible, and maybe it will not happen in the constant bills and debate, is for the Minister of Labour to take the initiative to actually overhaul the labour code and to invite both sides to discuss and come to a mutual agreement and identify and have a specific definition for essential services and a structure that works for both.

It seems to me that we have gone down this road many times before and my concern is that we are not resolving it.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to and support Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

This issue truly strikes close to home for me in the wake of the prolonged Vale Inco strike in Sudbury, which was finally settled this past July, and the strikers currently on the picket line in Voisey's Bay. During this protracted strike, nearly a year long in Sudbury, the hardship caused by a strike of this magnitude could be seen everywhere, not only on those workers directly affected by the strike but by their families and the community as a whole. Not only were the livelihoods of the individual workers at Vale Inco severely affected, but the observable economic spinoff effects felt throughout the larger community were almost as severe.

On nearly a daily basis I heard stories from striking workers who were facing tough economic times and even tougher decisions about where they could cut back on necessities in order to ensure that their mortgages, utilities and other household expenses were paid on time. The fact that Vale Inco was able to fill the labour void that the strike created, with the use of temporary or scab workers, served only to make the situation that much more dire for the workers on the picket line, as well as for their families and their dependants.

We may ask ourselves how Bill C-386 would serve to lessen the impact on the lives of striking workers, their families and the community as a whole. Provincial legislation banning the use of scabs during labour disputes paints an interesting picture.

For instance, Quebec was the first province to enact a ban on replacement workers, in 1977. In the year prior to the ban, the average number of working days lost through an individual labour dispute was 39.4. In 1979, after the act was passed, the average was 32.8 days. In 2001, it was 27.4 days. Therefore, the enactment of similar legislation in the province of Quebec has led to an average decrease in the length of strikes by 12 days.

Looking at aggregate numbers, the picture is even more impressive. In 1976, the year prior to the adoption of the anti-scab laws in Quebec, 6.4 million worker days were lost to strikes. In 1977, the number of days lost dropped to 1.2 million. This clearly demonstrates that banning replacement workers helps to reduce the number of work days lost to labour disputes, which reduces the economic hardship felt not only by striking workers and their families, but also the broader community. This is because a reduction in the length of strikes leads to a tangible reduction in the economic spinoff effects that a strike can have on a community.

Quebec is not the only province where anti-scab legislation is in effect. British Columbia passed a similar law in 1993, which had the effect of reducing strike days to levels comparable to those in Quebec. It also resulted in a 50% drop in the ratio of time lost.

Ontario too adopted anti-scab legislation, albeit too briefly. The NDP government enacted it in 1992, and the Mike Harris government repealed it immediately upon taking office. Nonetheless, even in that brief period, declines in work stoppages were evident in Ontario as well.

In addition to the provincial examples of banning the use of replacement workers, evidence suggests that anti-scab legislation promotes civilized negotiations during labour disputes, strikes or lockouts, and reduces picket line violence and the social and psychological problems caused by the extraordinary stress of labour disputes. Banning replacement workers would diminish the resentment that employees feel upon returning to work and would foster a fair balance and greater transparency in the negotiations between employers and employees.

Contrary to what some observers had predicted, the introduction of anti-scab legislation did not lead to the creation of strike-happy unions run by unreasonable and irrational negotiators, as some opponents of this legislation have claimed.

One of the biggest fears of corporate employers has always been that a ban on replacement workers would render unions more militant and difficult at the bargaining table. However, there is little evidence to suggest that any relationship exists between jurisdictions using anti-scab legislation and increased wage demands or settlements. Unions are not interested in negotiating an employer out of business. Economic conditions, rather than the presence of anti-scab laws, are what continue to dictate the tone and content of negotiated agreements.

There already exists a provision in the Canada Labour Code that prohibits the use of replacement workers if they are used to undermine the union's representational capacity. That provision is enshrined in subsection 94 (2.1) of the Code. Although the section sounds like it ought to be effective, in fact, it is a paper tiger. As long as the business keeps up the facade of continuing to bargain with the union, it allows employers to carry on business as usual, with the help of scab labour. I believe it is fair to say that a situation similar to this was a defining feature of the protracted strike at Vale.

Something clearly needs to be done to close this corporate loophole that allows companies to hire replacement workers at the expense of those who engaged in legitimate collective action.

As my experience in working in the great riding of Sudbury suggests, the use of replacement workers can have detrimental effects on not only striking workers, but on the community as a whole. The interests of striking workers should not take a back seat to corporate interests, which seek to undermine legitimate collective action in an attempt to improve the bottom line while lining their pockets with corporate bonuses. Corporate interests should not be exaggerating the need for the use of replacement workers when the evidence strongly suggests that the use of replacement workers serves only to prolong the duration of a strike.

The statistics presented above demonstrate that a clear link exists between the existence of anti-scab legislation and the actual duration of a strike. The arguments which present the need for scab workers to maintain operational capacity are null and void.

Therefore, I call on my colleagues in the House to support this valuable legislation. Every time similar legislation has made its way to the House in the past, the New Democrats have been vocal supporters. This time is no different. I hope the hon. members sitting on both sides of the House come to their senses and begin to side with the interests of working and middle-class Canadians instead of large corporations.

Parliament should be focused on the needs of hard-working Canadians. The passage of anti-scab legislation would go a long way toward assuring ordinary working and middle-class Canadians that their government actually cares about them in what, for many, has become a daily struggle just to make ends meet.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I am obviously in favour of Bill C-386, and I congratulate my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for presenting it with so much determination and conviction. However, after hearing the arguments of the Conservatives and the Liberals on this issue, I doubt that we will be able to advance the cause of Canadian workers, which I think is an argument—yet another one—in favour of Quebec sovereignty.

We knew that the Conservatives did not like unions. They have said so many, many times, but in this 40th Parliament, they are more determined than ever to prove it to us.

Yesterday, Bill C-395, which excluded the period of a labour dispute from the qualifying period for employment insurance, died on the order paper because it did not receive a royal recommendation. The Conservatives did not support this bill, which would have guaranteed that workers whose plant closed or whose jobs were eliminated would be entitled to benefits based on the time they worked before the dispute. Words cannot express how much this heartless approach gets to me. That is one of the big Conservative principles that the Prime Minister brags about. They do nothing while the workers are struggling.

It was also the Conservative party that, in part 10 of the 2009 budget implementation bill, formerly Bill C-10, imposed salary conditions on federal public servants despite collective agreements that had already been signed. And what did the legislation say? I think that we need to see all of the elements to really understand why the Conservative government members voted against Bill C-386.

The Act said that, should the signed collective agreement propose an increase higher than what was set out in section 16, not only would the increase no longer be valid, but any increase higher than 1.5% that was received after December 8, 2008, would have to be paid back as per section 64.

Subsection 64(1) said:

Every amount paid—including amounts paid before the day on which this Act comes into force—to any person in excess of the amount that should have been paid as a result of this Act is a debt due to Her Majesty and may be recovered as such.

With Bill C-10, which passed because the Liberals supported the Conservatives yet again, the government announced to public servants that if they had negotiated a better collective agreement than the one imposed by the Act, the employees needed to repay what they had earned. Can this really be?

Would a government that abandons workers who lose their jobs following a labour dispute, forcing them to turn to the provinces for social assistance, a government that reneges on its own collective agreements and imposes new salary conditions, would a government like that vote in favour of a bill like Bill C-386? Come on.

During the first hour of debate, the Conservative member for Simcoe North stated, and I quote:

[Some are fond of citing] Quebec as an example of a jurisdiction that has successfully enacted a legislative ban on the use of replacement workers, but they are less likely to mention that Quebec's efforts were enacted more than 30 years ago. It is important to keep in mind the context here. The economic and labour issues faced by the province of Quebec in the 1970s are absolutely not the same as the ones faced by the Government of Canada today. It is an entirely different scenario.

Well, he was right. That is why on September 22, 2010, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously passed the following motion:

That in order to ensure that the Quebec Labour Code reflects the new realities of today's workplace, the National Assembly is calling on the Government of Quebec to examine the possibility of updating the Labour Code, particularly with respect to the anti-scab provisions, in order to take into account the impact of new technology.

Legislation preventing the use of replacement workers in order to achieve a balance of forces in labour disputes between employers and employees is as relevant in 2010 as it was 30 years ago. It is not a question of context, regardless of what the Conservative member from Simcoe North thinks, it is a question of values.

In contrast to Quebec, which prohibited it in 1977, there is nothing at the present time in the Canada Labour Code that specifically forbids the use of strike breakers.

Clause 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code contains a prohibition on the use of replacement workers, but only when an employer uses them “for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a trade union’s representational capacity”. This is a very weak prohibition because all that an employer has to do in order to demonstrate his good faith is continue to recognize the existing union and negotiate with it in order to have the right to use replacement workers.

A firm prohibition is absolutely essential, though, in order to encourage civilized negotiations and industrial peace. It is also the key to a fair balance of forces between employers and employees.

Workers in sectors that fall under the Canada Labour Code, such as telecommunications, banks, ports, bridges, air transport and so forth, constitute about 8% of the Quebec workforce and they are disadvantaged, therefore, when they have to negotiate with their employers. As a result, strikes tend to last longer.

According to Quebec labour ministry statistics, workers in Quebec whose employer falls under federal jurisdiction are almost always over-represented in the number of days of work lost.

Even though they made up just under 8% of the Quebec workforce, they were responsible for 18% of the person-days lost in 2004 and for 22.6% in 2003. In 2002, they constituted 7.3% of the workforce and were responsible for 48% of the work days lost due to labour disputes.

In short, over the last decade, the person-days lost by workers in Quebec covered by the Canada Labour Code were on average two and a half times greater than they should have been, given the demographic weight of these workers.

This means, of course, that strikes are longer—we have seen more when the federal government is involved—and more violent when employers can hire strike breakers.

They talk about good labour relations and mediation to justify their opposition to Bill C-386, but we will get back to that.

The Conservative government stated its opposition at the outset, and having no genuine arguments, retreated behind apocalyptic scenarios that have nothing to do with reality. Quebec has had legislation prohibiting replacement workers for 30 years, and there have been no catastrophes.

The Liberal labour relations critic has already made it known that she intends to vote against Bill C-386. And what is the red herring argument she gives for this? Allow me to quote what she said in the first hour of second reading of this bill on June 11:

What is at the core of my argument that we should not be supporting this private member's bill? The key to the situation really is fair and free collective bargaining that is balanced between employers and unions. I would assert that this balance cannot be maintained and improved through a selective private member's bill that picks [either of these groups].

In short, she suggested allowing scabs until a crisis erupts and ensuring the right to fair collective bargaining. If, during a labour dispute, the workers are the only losers and the plant is working on all cylinders thanks to replacement workers, the Liberal critic feels that there is fair collective bargaining. We would not need to harm the economy and it is just too bad for the poor strikers on the picket line.

However, I do not agree, and like the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, I am asking my colleagues to support this bill and to listen to what will be said in committee by the main stakeholders: the workers.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Richmond B.C.


Alice Wong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Madam Speaker, the provisions of Bill C-386 are being debated in the House today. This proposed legislation, if enacted, would result in substantial changes to key sections of the Canada Labour Code. It would prohibit the use of replacement workers at federally regulated workplaces during a work stoppage. In effect, it would mean that federal employers would be banned from using replacement workers during a work stoppage.

Our position on this bill is very clear. It is bad for labour relations, it is bad for the economy, and it is bad for Canada. I do not see anything in the bill's proposed provisions that would help boost Canada's ability to create jobs and be more competitive in today's economy. What I do see in the bill is a recipe for instability and uncertainty in Canadian labour relations.

I would like to take the next few minutes to share with you why in my view the provisions of this bill run contrary to the spirit of what the government tries to achieve through its mediation and conciliation service. This approach has served Canada well for over a century as it tries to get at and resolve the root causes of labour disputes.

Let us first look at our proud tradition of mediation. Canada has a proud tradition of resolving labour disputes via mediation and preventive mediation. Our government has been finding workable solutions to labour disputes by appointing mediators and conciliation officers. These people in turn have helped unions and employers reach collective bargaining settlements.

One of the solutions is the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, FMCS. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service provides dispute resolution and dispute prevention assistance to trade unions and employers governed by the Canada Labour Code. Mediation and conciliation officers are appointed to help parties resolve impasses in collective bargaining. In addition, preventive mediation services are offered and designed to help employers and unions build and maintain constructive working relationships during the term of a collective agreement.

Today nine out of ten collective bargaining disputes in the federal jurisdiction are settled without a work stoppage. Our government supports the use of mediation and preventive mediation services because they have been proven to be effective.

Unlike the proposed provisions of Bill C-386, mediation services do not force sides against one another. They do not tilt the playing field in favour of one side. It is an approach that finds solutions, lasting solutions. Just as important, it is an approach that recognizes that the best labour relations strategy of all is the one that prevents disputes from happening in the first place.

The Annis report confirms our belief that preventing disputes from happening in the first place means that we must get to the root causes of a labour dispute. It was with that principle in mind that in 2008 our government commissioned industrial relations expert Peter Annis to conduct a study on the causes and effects of work stoppages in the federally regulated private sector. That study was completed in the fall of 2008 and was submitted to the minister of labour for consideration.

Of particular note, one of the options identified by Mr. Annis was to strengthen the federal preventive mediation program. This proposal was strongly supported by labour and management stakeholders alike because they know that preventive mediation works. They know that it can help parties work together to resolve their differences and prevent work stoppages from happening in the first place.

Now I would like to comment further on the risks of Bill C-386. I have demonstrated why our government continues to invest wisely in preventive mediation, including the commissioning of a third party report on work stoppages. We want to see positive results that satisfy both sides in the interests of our industries and our national economy. Bill C-386 puts those gains at risk.

This bill, if passed, would inflict harm on the balance that was achieved when the Canada Labour Code was modernized. It would leave federal employers completely unable to even try to operate at minimal levels during a strike or lockout. Not only could this result in productivity losses, it could undermine confidence in Canada's economy, something that we are working hard at sustaining through these challenging economic times.

Now let us look at previous legislative efforts. As members are aware, the House has debated numerous private members' bills on the matter of replacement workers in the federal domain over the past two decades. All of these bills were defeated. Yet here we are again focusing on the same narrow issues while the bigger and more important issue, that of productive labour-management relations, gets lost.

Given what we know about what works best for building good labour relations, how does Bill C-386 measure up? Not very well. Do the provisions in this bill help to get at the root causes of a labour dispute? No. Does this bill seek to engage parties in long-term dialogue and to build consensus? No. By seeking to impose a solution on both sides via the legislative process, this bill would undermine any efforts to build consensus between the employers and labour and prevent work conflicts in an effective way.

Let us focus on how we can prevent disputes from happening in the first place.

Let us respect the need to maintain a sense of balance in labour relations.

Let us put an end to debating one legislative attempt after another, each seeking to ban replacement workers without consultation and without compromise.

For these reasons, I urge all members to oppose Bill C-386.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great honour that I rise today to support Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), better known as the infamous anti-scab legislation. I should point out that it is the term “scab” that is infamous.

The Bloc Quebecois is making a point of introducing this anti-scab bill for the 11th time in this Parliament. There must no longer be two categories of workers in Quebec, namely those who are governed by the Canada Labour Code, which allows the hiring of scabs, and those who come under the Quebec Labour Code, which does not allow it.

Before going further, I want to recognize the tremendous work done by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, who has been working since November 2000, since his first day in the House, to protect the rights of workers with diligence and integrity. Today, I am not surprised that he is a strong supporter of this bill and, in fact, its sponsor.

I also want to thank the unions of the Outaouais region, where I represent the riding of Gatineau. I am thinking in particular of Dino Lemay, of the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec, or FTQ; Michel Quijada of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, or CSN; Louise Patrice, Edith Gendron, Francine Stuart and Donald Roy, of the Comité régional d'action politique de l'Outaouais of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, or PSAC. I thank them for supporting this initiative. I also thank Hassan Yussuff, of the Canadian Labour Congress, or CLC, for his support.

These people work with workers and they are well aware of the misfortunes and calamities that surface when scabs do the job of workers who are on picket lines.

This bill seeks to end the inequity between workers who are governed by the Quebec Labour Code and those who come under the Canada Labour Code. Only Quebec and British Columbia have legislation prohibiting the hiring of scabs. In this regard, it is time for the other provinces and for Canada to get out of the dark ages.

The passage of anti-strikebreaker legislation in Quebec goes back to December 1977 under the government of René Lévesque of the sovereignist Parti Québécois. It was an impressive leap forward in respect for the rights of working people.

It happened at the end of a particularly stormy strike at the United Aircraft plant in Longueuil. By severely limiting the ability of employers to simply thumb their noses at unions, this legislation put Quebec in a leadership position in North America.

Anti-strikebreaker legislation would be good for all working people who come under the Canada Labour Code, both in Quebec and in all provinces and territories,

On the federal level, subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code contains a prohibition on the use of replacement workers, but only when an employer uses them for the purpose of undermining a trade union’s representational capacity. That is weak, very weak, because all that an employer has to do in order to be entitled to hire scabs is continue to recognize the existing union and negotiate with it so that its representational capacity is not undermined. In other words, only if the employer refuses to negotiate while using replacement workers can the Canada Industrial Relations Board step in and forbid their use.

An employer just has to negotiate, or appear to negotiate, with the union in order to circumvent the prohibition and continue using strikebreakers.

This is a ridiculous provision, therefore, that provides a giant loophole for the use of scabs. A prohibition on the hiring of replacement workers during labour disputes is more necessary than ever, therefore, to reduce violence on picket lines, encourage a fair balance of forces in the negotiations between employers and employees, reduce litigation as a result of strikes and lock-outs, and mitigate the hard feelings that arise among employees when they return to work.

There is a very broad consensus among the various unions on the importance of anti-strikebreaker legislation. It is absolutely essential in the workplace of today because it provides for greater transparency in labour disputes. I should add in passing that this bill will not cost the government any money. It is about time, therefore, that the Conservatives and all my Liberal friends voted in favour of this bill, which will ensure some respect for workers when they negotiate with their bosses to make sure they are not penalized while the bosses make money using scabs who are often paid less than the people on the picket line. When this happens, very ugly situations arise within a community, especially if it is small and neighbours are taking jobs from one another. There is an imbalance, therefore, in the negotiations over a return to work.

With this in mind, the current situation under the Canada Labour Code—allowing the use of replacement workers—means that there are very negative consequences during strikes and lockouts. There are many negative effects, and they clearly illustrate the importance of bringing forward dispute-reduction measures. The premise is that labour disputes last longer when scabs are used. This, in turn, reduces the purchasing power of workers directly or indirectly involved in the dispute and results in households going into debt. In some cases, disputes can cause social problems, considerable violence, and stress-related psychological problems.

Anyone who has their heart in the right place will vote in favour of an anti-scab bill, based on a bill drafted by the Bloc Québécois and firmly supported by the NDP.

To provide a few examples of the benefits of Quebec's legislation, here are some figures showing how anti-scab legislation can have positive effects on the work climate and the bargaining climate between employers and employees.

In 1976, before anti-scab legislation was passed in Quebec, the average number of working days lost was 39.4. In 1979, after the legislation was passed, the average was 32.8 days, and in 2001 it was 27.4 days.

With good labour relations, with employers and employees on equal footing, the parties try to come up with a solution more quickly to ensure that everyone wins when they end up in a bargaining situation. Workers choose to strike as a last resort. It is not their first choice. Nonetheless, when they have to, they have to, but they have to do it fairly.

This clearly shows that dispute settlements are quicker and fairer when employers and unions negotiate under the same constraints. Unfortunately, the Canada Labour Code still allows the use of scabs in Quebec, with the result that there have been labour disputes that demonstrate how urgent it is to pass this bill. Take the case of Vidéotron for example.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to once again defend Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). I hope that it will be passed. I would like to read the summary:

The purpose of this enactment is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. It extends the obligation to maintain essential services. The enactment also provides for the imposition of a fine for an offence.

There are two opposing philosophies here in the House. There is the philosophy of the young parties, like the Bloc Québécois, which turned 20 this year, and the NDP, which is older than the Bloc Québécois, but younger than the older parties—the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. Today's speeches by the Conservatives and the Liberals reflect the old, preconceived ideas about labour relations that they inherited from the past.

It is important for the Conservatives to listen to me. They mentioned recent disputes at Air Canada and Canadian National. I was the transport critic during the Air Canada crisis, and I was directly affected by it. The Conservatives spoke of the mediation process, but it was short-lived. The minister had already prepared back-to-work legislation. For the first time, I received phone calls from union representatives and from Air Canada representatives, who told me that this legislation should not be introduced because it would be terrible for labour relations. Both the employees and the employers were asking me to do whatever I could to ensure that the minister did not introduce the back-to-work legislation, because, once again, the mediation had not been enough. All that because the government is living in the past when it comes to labour relations.

Things have changed. There is a shortage of airplane pilots. We can do whatever we want, but there will not be enough replacement workers, because we need more airplane pilots.

Let us figure out how these disputes can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. One way of doing so would be to pass a bill like this one, which would be a step forward. Federally regulated employees work in sectors such as transport, banking and communications, as well as in the public service, where it is easy to find replacement workers.

This is clear in the labour dispute that has been going on for over 20 months at the Journal de Montréal. Last weekend's edition of the Journal de Montréal explained how the employer wants to solve the dispute. It wants to get rid of over half of the staff, but more importantly, it wants the new publication created by the locked-out employees,, to be shut down. The dispute has gone on so long that the employees have created their own information network, This is affecting the Journal de Montréal so much that, in its negotiations, it is asking the employees to shut down

Things are evolving. Once again, the Conservatives do not understand, and the Liberals, even less. In 2007, when Bill C-257 was introduced in the House, the Liberals voted in favour of it at second reading, but decided to vote against it at third reading because it did not cover essential services.

I prepared Bill C-386 very carefully along with the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and the hon. member for Gatineau, who both have close ties to union organizations, as I once did, and we included the issue of essential services. Now the Liberals are saying that they do not like the definition of essential services.

The problem is that the Liberal Party opposes this bill, and so does the Conservative Party. Whether the two old parties like it or not, this affects labour relations across Canada.

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The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those in favour will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members